A review of  Swordfish” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: **

Rating: R for language, nudity, violence

Run Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes


What begins as a taut, slick, action-thriller dissolves into a ridiculous, clichéd, pseudo-adventure pastiche that has summer doldrums written all over it.

Someone please tell John Travolta to take a vacation.  He’s overexposed, overweight, and thoroughly redundant.  Grimacing a la “Broken Arrow”, pontificating about film a la “Get Shorty”, strutting his stuff a la “Battleship Earth” – offering nothing new and everything dreary.  While they’re at it, someone please get me Hugh Jackman’s phone number.

The setting is contemporary cyberspace, a world of incriminating information protected by hackers and firewalls.  Gabriel Shear (Travolta) is the master-in-his-own-mind of this technological universe, a twisted, calculating uber-spy itching to get his hands on billions of dollars of illegal government funds.  To achieve his dream, Shear needs help in the form of  tech brilliance.  Enter burned-out hacker zeitgeist Stan Jobson (Jackman), on parole but desperate to get back into the game.

Secure clusters, 124 byte ciphers, cyber surveillance.  Stan is allowed none of his former playthings since he wreaked havoc on the FBI’s controversial high tech operations and landed himself in Leavenworth.  But the lure of luscious Shear assistant Ginger (Halle Berry), and the promise of a permanent reunion with his lost-to-divorce daughter put Stan over the edge.  He’ll do Shear’s dirty work, and walk away a rich and independent man.

I was hopeful at the opening stand-off situation, which is nicely staged and imaginatively photographed.  A group of hostages wrapped in ball-bearings and 20 lbs. of C-4 explosives spells tension.  Film has the look of an expensive auto advertising campaign, bathed in a flattering but eerie light.  Banks of high-speed computers and beaucoup code jargon may satisfy the techies, but the movie goes seriously south when it unloads the mandatory chase scenes, scantily clad babes, and violent montages.  Travolta machine-gunning down a caravan of mean, black SUVs is a low point, as is a flying bus sequence.  You had to be there, but be glad you weren’t.  Jackman maintains his dignity (and his chiseled cheekbones and physique), which isn’t difficult with Travolta preening and prancing about like a whacked-out  Teletubby.  Berry gets to flash her breasts (for a reported 500K), but it’s a token glimpse to keep the males in line at the box office.